Art valuation always fascinated me.  All those paintings by famous artist selling in million of dollars like  Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the World) selling for a world record of $450,000,000.00, the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.  Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting is now in full display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi which was acquired by Abu Dhabi’s department of culture and tourism.

I always ask myself how auction houses or even galleries price their artwork or paintings?  I’m sure they don’t pull the numbers off from thin air or with a wave of a wand like Dumbledore! 

When I had the opportunity to attend an All Access: An Insider’s Guide to Unravelling the Art World at Christie’s on how to value art I went for it.

And it was F A S C I N A T I N G!!

I even got a behind the scenes look of the Russian art auction at Christie’s (another fascinating story here for another time).

Here’s what I learned at Christie’s on How To Value Art:

There are 9 fundamental elements in valuing art:

1. Artist and Authentication.

Is the artist still alive or dead?

How can the piece be authenticated?  How can it be proven or shown that the painting is true, genuine, or valid?

When a painting is authenticated it holds more value then when it’s not authenticated.

There are a couple of ways that we can authenticate an art piece:

a. via the artist himself/herself if he/she is still alive

b. via the artist’s studio – for example Damian Hirst (the artist is not involved in this)

c. via Artist estate and/or committee or foundation – for example Basquiat needs to be  authenticated by the estate. 

d. via a gallery for less prominent artist 

e. via catalogue raisonne – this is the catalog of the artist’s whole body of work

f.  via certification – it’s important when there is a certificate from the artist certifying his/her work. 

2. Historical Importance

The timeline when the artist earn their place in history.  Looking at the year of execution, is it an early work or late work, the style,  where where it was exhibited, how many times was it feature in literature.  

What is the artist’s body of work in terms of historical significance.

It’s important to think about the history of the artist and the painting when looking at art work and what it’s significance is when it was first painted by the artist.  

3.  Rarity

The rarer that artwork comes up for auction the more valuable it is. 

For example Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi shown above or Pablo Picasso’s Les Femme D’Alger which sold for $31,902,500.00

Or Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale,  In piazza San Marco di notte con Teresita which sold for $13,092,827.00


4. Condition of the painting

Has the painting been through a lot of restoration?

Tiny spots of retouching is fine but if there are lots of retouching on the painting it will lesser the value of the painting.

Always ask for a condition report and for high res image to zoom in and see the art work up close for scratches, retouching, and even if holes have been patched like Andy Warhol’s Chairman Mao whom Dennis Hopper shot by accident!

5.  Subject matter/colour

Certain colour and subject matter affect the value of the art work. 

In general art work with red in them sells better, and female portraits sells better than male portraits.

6. Provenance 

Who owned the artwork before.   If the artwork was owned by a prominent figure or family it adds to the value of the artwork then from someone unknown. 


7. Size

The bigger the better. 

8. Medium

Different mediums are valued differently. 

Work on canvas are valued more than work on paper, because canvas is more durable and substantial with more abject feeling to it compared to paper which is more delicate and easier to break. 

Sculptures depends if it’s the main work of the artist, for example Giacometti’s sculptures are valued at a higher price than his paintings.

For example Giacometti’s L’homme au doigt sold for $ 141,285,000.00

9. Trends

Depending on what is trending or happening at the current moment.

The best way to find out what’s trending at the moment is to look at what’s being brought to light by important institutions, or important retrospective for example David Hockney.  David Hockney, one of the most popular and influential British artists of the twentieth century had his most comprehensive exhibition at the Tate Britain in 2017.

This exhibition gathered together an extensive selection of David Hockney’s most famous works celebrating his achievements in painting, drawing, print, photography and video across six decades.


David Hockney’s Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica sold for $ 28,453,000.00 in May 2018.


Would love to hear your comment on valuing art and your thoughts on buying art for investment.  Please share in the comments section below.



Links to artists mentioned:


David Hockney

Leonardo Davinci  Salvator Mundi

Andy Warhol  Chairman Mao  shot by Dennis Hopper

Pablo Picasasso Femme D’Alger

I would love to hear from you leave me a comment below!